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Understanding HIPAA and The Privacy Rule
Most of us believe that our medical and other information is private. We believe it should be protected. In addition, we want to know who has this information. The Privacy Rule is a federal law that gives you rights over your health information. The Privacy Rule sets rules and limits on who look at and receive your health information.
There are a number of entities who must follow the law including:
-Health Plans - health insurance companies, HMOs, company health plans and
certain government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
-Most Health Care Providers - doctors, clinics, hospitals, psychologists,
chiropractors, nursing homes, pharmacies and dentist.
There are a number of organizations that do not have to follow the Privacy Rule such as:
-Workers Compensation Carriers
-Many schools and school districts
-Many state agencies like child protective service agencies
-Many law enforcement agencies
-Many municipal offices
The information that is protected ranges from information your doctors and nurses put into your medical record to billing information about you at your doctor's office.
Entities that have to follow the Privacy Rule do so by putting in place safeguards to protect your health information. These entities must limit uses and disclosures of your health information to what is absolutely necessary. Protecting your information means contracts have to be in place with contractors to ensure that they properly safeguard information that they come in contact with. Lastly, they must limit who can view and access your health information as well as have training programs for employees to train them about protecting health information.
So what are your rights? Health insurers and providers must comply with your right to see and obtain a copy of your health records. If you indicate mistakes in your health record your provider must make corrections at your request to do so. They must tell you how your health information may be used and to whom it will be shared. You have a right to decide if you want to give permission before your health information can be used or shared.
If you give permission for your health information to used and shared then you have the right to get a report on when, why and to whom the information was shared.
Become familiar with HIPAA: The Privacy Rule. If you believe your rights are being infringed you can: file a complaint with your provider or health insurer or with the U.S. Government.
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